The Movie Waffler First Look Review - FUNNY STORY | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - FUNNY STORY

funny story 2018 film review
Complications arise when an estranged father embarks on a road trip with his daughter's friend.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Michael J. Gallagher

Starring: Matthew Glave, Emily Bett Rickards, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo, Lily Holleman, Daisye Tutor

funny story 2018 film poster

It’s an unforgiving business this comedy lark. Take Mark Kermode’s absolutely ridiculous ‘six laugh’ test (or whatever the arbitrary number is), the spurious idea that a comedy’s worth can be gauged by the frequency of the laughter it physically invokes. How does that even work? If we applied similar logic to horror films, that its success criteria would be how often the viewer jumps, then Annabelle, with its serviceable cattle prod jolts, would be a ‘better’ film than The Innocents - come on! What of the comedy that is wry, the comedy which is acerbic and knowing, which allows us to look at the foibles of the human condition through a prophylactic of amusement? If I am not rolling around on the sticky cinema floor in paroxysms of laughter, does it mean I should dismiss a comedy’s sincere observations upon the essential absurdities of life? After all, aren’t the best funeral eulogies the ones which make us laugh as well as cry? Go home Kermode, you’re drunk (again).

funny story 2018 film

Perhaps calling your film Funny Story, as Michael J. Gallagher (writer/director) and Steve Greene (writer) have, is asking for trouble though, as Adam Sandler it ain’t. We do, however, open with an uncharacteristically broad tableau, wherein aging lothario Walter (Matthew Glave) attempts to dump his hot, younger partner (Daisye Tutor). As Walter extends metaphors involving the condiments on the bar table where they sit, "I’m this salt cellar, you’re this packet of sugar," Lucy vapes and plays with her phone, seemingly oblivious to Walter (because she is young, see). It’s funny because they are chalk and cheese, and then the punchline: it turns out Lucy is pregnant - yikes! Perhaps it’s time for Walter to get a bit of space and visit his estranged daughter Nic (Jana Winternitz), who keeps a distance on the West Coast, upset and embarrassed by her dirty old dad’s shagger ways. And if Walter is determined to visit, then at least he could offer Nic’s pal Kim (Emily Bett Rickards) a lift to Big Sur. As a younger woman prone to bouts of joyless casual sex and crying jags, Kim has her own issues, too. Thus, the path is paved for an odd couple road trip, where comedy conflict and hard won mutual understanding is presumably en route…

It now becomes impossible to discuss the many marvels of Funny Story without driving smack bang into spoiler territory, so suffice to say at this point that I utterly loved Funny Story, and that it is funny, and sad, and wonderful. You’ll probably love it too, so go and treat yourself to a gloriously unspoiled viewing experience right now, and then come back to the rest of the review…

funny story 2018 film

Of course, it turns out that the motel Walter and Kim stop at is all booked up due to a bike race, and of course after some initial discord (realised by ping-pong precision dialogue) the two bond over karaoke and tequila shots, and of course they then end up in bed for some fairly urgent drunken fumblings. You’ve done it again, Walter: except this time it’s personal, as it only turns out that Nic is gay, and lives on a lesbian commune, and that Kim is actually her fiancé whom she is due to marry in a ceremony which is mere days away - double yikes! Yes, it is awkward, as Kim and Walter essentially resolve to do what most people tend to in these situations, which is carry on as if nothing has happened (allowing tension to simmer to a third act boiling point). But it is also quite lovely too. Walter, unreconstructed but kindly, copes immediately with his daughter’s newly revealed sexuality, but still asks the sort of questions that straight people always do - "who is the man in the relationship?", etc. His well-meaning ignorance is mined for gentle humour, as is the lasting legacy of actor Walter’s appearance on a Xena style '90s telly actioner, a persona that has followed him ever since and here serves as a cute metaphor for his arrested development.

funny story 2018 film

The truth has to out, though, with Walter weighing up just how to break his daughter’s heart: tell her what happened and lose her forever, or keep her sweet and allow the inauguration of a doomed marriage (let’s face it, Kim doesn’t seem very good at this whole being-a-lesbian game). Gallagher and Greene’s film is far too accomplished to offer any easy answers, and instead, through an incredible cast and the tender confidence of the script and film-making, proposes an authentic drama, a comedy which approaches originality in its unflinching but warm exploration of betrayal and broken bonds. By the bittersweet end, which sees our characters set adrift by the decisive events of the movie, you may not know whether to laugh or cry, but Funny Story will have passed the test of not only being a good movie, but one that is honest, thoughtful and moving too.

Funny Story premiered at Slamdance 2018. A release has yet to be announced.